Brush or Floss—What Should You Do First?

Brush or Floss—What Should You Do First?

Most of us are aware of the importance of good dental hygiene. A regular twice-daily brushing and flossing routine in the morning and last thing before we go to bed is the mantra instilled in us by dentists. But, have you ever been told whether you should brush or floss first? Have you ever given it any thought? Furthermore, does it even matter?

Why is Brushing and Flossing Important?

Many dental health problems are easily prevented with a simple twice-daily oral hygiene routine at home. Supplemented with regular check-ups by a dentist, you can effectively maintain your oral health.

By neglecting oral hygiene, you are storing up a world of problems further down the line. So, instead of a simple check-up, you may be considering gum surgerytooth replacements and other complex oral surgery procedures. It’s food for thought that you can prevent major problems by spending just a few minutes every day brushing and flossing.

Preventing Tooth Decay

Brushing and flossing the teeth is essential for good oral hygiene. Bacteria present in our mouths can cause problems for the teeth and the gums. The harmful plaque produced by bacteria erodes tooth enamel, leading to tooth decay. Brushing the teeth removes the bacteria from the surface of the teeth preventing damage to the teeth.

If superficial areas of decay develop, they can easily be removed by a dentist and the ensuing cavity filled. If the decay is not removed, the bacteria reach the soft tissues in the center of the tooth, causing infection. At this stage, a root canal is the only effective treatment to save the tooth, else it will have to be removed.

Preventing Gum Disease

Additionally, bacterial plaque irritates the gums causing inflammation, which is one of the first signs of gum disease. If the gum disease isn’t treated, it progresses, destroying the gums and supporting structures of the teeth, including the jawbone. Eventually, the teeth become loose and will eventually fall out.

Brushing and flossing help to remove the harmful bacteria in our mouths, as well as the food debris that bacteria feed on. While brushing gets rid of plaque on the surfaces of the teeth, flossing removes it from in between the teeth where brushing alone doesn’t reach.

Furthermore, brushing removes stains that are caused by tea, coffee, red wine, and food, such as curries. Plus, removing food debris with flossing can help prevent bad breath which is caused by the acid harmful bacteria produce.

Brushing or Flossing First?

If you are brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day you may wonder what the problem is if you are doing what your dentist recommends. However, a recent study now has scientific evidence about whether it is better to brush or floss first.

In The Journal of Periodontology, a study suggests that flossing before brushing has tangible benefits to your oral health. It found that if you floss first, it leads to a reduction in total plaque.   Thus, as well as removing more of the harmful bacteria in the mouth.  After flossing, if you brush with a natural toothpaste containing essential oils, they will remain in your gums and teeth increasing oils tooth strengthening properties.  

So, if you want to supercharge the effectiveness of your oral health routine, it is better to floss before you brush.

Other Dental Hygiene Tips

There are other tips that can help you to make the most of your dental hygiene efforts. However, guidelines may differ from country to country because supporting scientific evidence is not necessarily conclusive and it is generally accepted that more research is required. If you are in doubt, speak to your dentist about what is the best course of action for you.

Rinsing with Mouthwash After Brushing

Canada, Australia and the UK recommend not rinsing after brushing, whereas the American Dental Association makes no advice either way.

The reasoning behind not rinsing about brushing is that most kinds of toothpaste contain fluoride and want that fluoride to remain on teeth —BUT when using natural organic oral care products we have different concerns.  When brushing with a natural toothpaste, what remains are the essential oils and the minerals, if you also rinse with a natural Mouthwash that contains essential oils, it will actually enhance and would not strip away the benefits left by your toothpaste.  On the other hand, conventional Mouthwash containing alcohol will strip away all the beneficial residues left by your toothpaste.  Therefore, brushing isn’t as effective as it could be in preventing tooth decay.

Choose a Dental Floss That Works For You

Some people find dental floss difficult to use, but there are alternatives, such as interdental brushes or floss picks. They are available in many different sizes and designed to fit in the small gaps between your teeth. They may be a better option for some people as it’s easy to poke them through the gaps at the front of the teeth. By gently moving them back and forth you can dislodge food debris and plaque.

Water flossers, also known as water picks or irrigators, are another alternative to traditional floss and are particularly useful if you aren’t very dexterous.

Are you concerned about the environmental impact of using traditional dental floss? Typically made from nylon, it isn’t biodegradable, and neither are toothbrushes with plastic handles. Fortunately, there are now eco-friendly products on the market, such as toothbrushes with bamboo handles and biodegradable floss. They are eco-friendly and kinder to the environment—so you can look after your dental health with a guilt-free conscience.

The Bottom Line

Persisting with a good oral health regime is key in preventing problems such as tooth decay and gum disease. With small changes to your oral hygiene routine, such as flossing before brushing, you can maximize the benefits. With the minimum of effort, you can effectively maintain a clean, hygienic mouth and look forward to a lifetime of dental health.



Amanda Duffy has considerable knowledge in the field of dentistry and oral health, gained from a 20-year career in the healthcare sector - including a decade in the UK's National Health Service, and years of experience writing high-quality dental content.

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